Your bad breath may be caused by the sugary beverages and acidic foods that you consume, but scientists have found proof that oral diseases have been prevalent way before soda even existed. Scientists discovered that a diet heavy in processed foods like bread leads to an unhealthy mouth, especially when compared to those who consumed a large amount of berries and meat. If you feel like you're the only person suffering from bad breath, you'll be happy to hear that even people thousands of years ago had the same issues. That's right, even prehistoric people were found to have bad breath, tooth decay and periodontal disease.
The study of Otzi
Otzi the Iceman, the most studied prehistoric man, was found to have horrible teeth and oral health, according to new findings published in the European Journal of Oral Sciences. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland based on several computed tomography (CT) scans from 1991, when he was first found in the Oetz Valley. Researchers found that the lack of proper oral health and a poor diet of starch-heavy foods played a major role in the 5,300-year-old man's poor oral hygiene.
Otzi was a middle-aged man who died from an arrow wound and bled to death on a glacier in the Alps near what is now considered Austria and Italy. Although Otzi has been studied for many things, scientists never researched the conditions of his teeth. The study found severe wear of the tooth enamel, heavy build-up of dental plaque and chronic bad breath. Since he lived in an area when agriculture was on the rise and he was thought to be a farmer, he had access to processed foods that others did not. The dental problems were a sign of the negative results of straying from a strict hunter-gatherer diet.
"Hunter-gatherers were depending on meat and berries, whereas [Ötzi] had processed food," study co-author Frank Ruhli, a paleopathologist, said. "The processing added a bigger variety of food but also impacted the quality of the teeth."
He had a mouth full of cavities and many dental abrasions, some of which were severe. Dentist Roger Seiler from the Centre for Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich was able to examine Otzi's teeth from the three-dimensional CT scans and found that he rarely cleaned his teeth. The hard minerals that he consumed acted like sandpaper on his teeth, and researchers believe that he would have lost several teeth if he lived for five to 10 more years.
What this means for today
Otzi didn't have a tooth brush to get rid of dental plaque, but his diet of bread, cereal porridge and other starchy foods was one of the biggest culprits of his unhealthy mouth. We can all learn something from this discovery and Otzi's oral health issues more than 5,000 years ago. While it's not necessary to cut bread completely out of your diet, it may be helpful to limit your intake of it during meals. Consuming bread as a side with other foods helps to rinse down the starchy remnants that would normally get left behind in the crevices of the teeth. If you simply can't give up your morning toast, make sure to drink water and floss afterwards.
Cut down on dental plaque build-up by brushing the teeth at least twice a day, along with flossing and using alcohol-free mouthwash.